…that’s how many people showed up to vote today at Town Hall. That’s well short of daily vote totals in 2006 and 2007, but I’m not worried. I’ve heard from plenty of people who are withholding final judgment until they’ve heard from the candidates tonight.
My campaign letter went out in the mail this morning, and will probably arrive for most of you in tomorrow’s mail. Here it is, “below the fold.”
Hello, my name is Jim Carson and I’m running for re-election to the Keller City Council.
WAIT! Please don’t throw me away just yet. I promise this letter won’t be the same old “Vote for me–I’m a swell guy” campaign literature that you’re used to. I promise not to put any flyers on your door, nor interrupt your dinner with recorded messages. I won’t even litter Keller’s beautiful Spring landscape with signs saying little more than my name.
If you don’t have time to read me right now, maybe you could put me on the fridge and read me later? I may not convince you to come out and vote for me, but I’m confident that I can at least disavow you of any notion that “all politicians are the same.”
Before I get around to asking for your vote, I need to persuade many of you to vote at all in a local election. In a typical November (state and federal) election, more than 50% of Keller voters show up at the polls. But in city elections, fewer than 20% vote. Why? I’m convinced it’s because 1) local election coverage isn’t on TV, 2) we don’t have those handy little R’s and D’s behind our names, and 3) voters aren’t typically aware how much local government decisions affect them.
On that third one, think of it this way: when the federal government
wastes, er, spends a million dollars, it costs the typical Keller family of four a little over a penny. But when the city of Keller spends a million dollars, it costs that same family $105. And with our low turnouts, your vote carries that much more weight.
My guiding principles are limited and open government.
Limited government is an oft-quoted platitude of politicians who nevertheless rarely vote to put actual limits on government. I have fought and will continue to fight Keller’s excesses, including 1) massage therapy at the Keller Pointe, 2) DVDs at the library which have zero educational value (Deuce Bigalow-European Gigolo, etc.,) and 3) spending money on bronze statues while repeatedly telling some neighborhoods “maybe next year” we’ll repair your streets and sewers. No government should ever spend your money on these items, which can be funded privately.
Open government is a lot like beauty—it depends on the beholder. Some will claim that open government is just answering your questions. I take a different view—government should be proactively open. The more likely you are to care about an issue, the louder and sooner your government should be trying to bring out the facts (warts and all.)
Before I was elected in May, 2006, Keller’s government was not only not-so-open, it was occasionally downright sneaky. There were art purchases funded by garbage vendor kickbacks, and of course the council’s surreptitious attempt to build a Town Center library similar to the one the voters had overwhelmingly rejected at the polls. My weblog of Keller politics, www.kellercitylimits.com, was instrumental in defeating high-rise apartments in the heart of Keller’s commercial corridor (Keller Station.)
Early voting begins April 28th at Town Hall. Thank you for your consideration.
My advisors tell me that most people won’t tolerate more than a single page of a politician’s pleading for votes. My advisors, being brilliant, are right. But still, here you are, reading the second page of a three-page letter. This tells me that you are very likely to vote, and perhaps haven’t made up your mind. To help you do that, the rest of this letter describes the cases in the last two years where I voted my principles in opposition to the rest of the council—votes I cheekily refer to as “four-to-Jim.”
6/20/2006 I voted against spending $90,000 for an update to our Parks & Open Space Master Plan. The prior update had cost less than $20,000 and the budget only allowed for $25,000. More than a year after contract approval, the consultant produced an enormous document, but with scarcely any information we didn’t already know. Its primary conclusion was the preposterous notion that Keller should acquire 500 of our remaining 700 acres of open land for the sole use of parks. Nonsense. I strongly favor acquiring 50-100 acres of new parkland and accelerating trail development in North Keller.
7/18/2006 Mine was the only vote against Uptown Keller—yet another high-density residential development in Town Center.
8/15/2006 Voted against spending $100,000 of your taxes on a developer agreement with Larry Cole to put culverts under Pate Orr Road. This deal was struck between the city staff and Mr. Cole more than a year before any council knew about it. After the council approved it, Mr. Cole kept Pate Orr closed for an entire school year.
9/19/2006 I voted against the annual budget, primarily because of unsustainable pay increases. The 3.5% cost-of-living adjustment was well above market, and the average pay increase for the non-Pointe employees turned out to be over 10%! The average pay increase in the private sector was closer to 4%.
10/3/2006 I voted in favor of a zoning change for Racetrac at the corner of Anita and 1709. Until 2002, the owner of that property had a legal right to build a gas station there. In 2002 the city decided it no longer wanted gas stations along that section of 1709. OK, but rather than go through the ordeal of changing the zoning, the city chose to just redefine what the zoning meant, effectively stripping the owners of property of their rights. These property owners were not even notified that this change was made. My vote was to restore rights wrongfully taken.
11/7/2006 I voted against a silly, non-binding resolution encouraging the Texas Legislature to restore state parks funding. Come on, folks, every time we lobby for more money for X, it necessarily means money is taken away from some unknown Y. And what business is it of Keller city councilmen to lobby Austin in the first place?
12/5/2006 The Arthouse, during its development, needed a sales and marketing trailer. Rather than lease space from an existing Town Center landlord (whom all councilmen would swear they support,) the Arthouse managed to convince the city staff, and ultimately the city council, to lease a patch of Town Hall grounds for the low, low price of $1000 per year. This was blatant favoritism by the city—other local businesses wanting the same deal would be laughed out of Town Hall. The scar on the grounds where the trailer stood is still visible.
3/6/2007 In February I discovered that the city manager’s employment contract was in direct violation of the City Charter (unconstitutional, if you will.) The contract erroneously mandated as much as $400,000 severance to be paid upon involuntary termination. The Charter says that the city council may grant severance in an amount no greater than 120 days pay when termination occurs. The city council, over my objection, voted to pay a guaranteed 120 days severance in the event of termination. I’m still scratching my head over that one.
3/20/2007 & 4/3/2007 I voted against two rezoning applications in which developers—as always—wanted to build on smaller lots than current zoning allowed. The neighbors wanted them to follow the rules, not change them.
5/15/2007 I voted against a resolution authorizing action by the Tarrant County Housing Finance Corporation. There should be no such thing as a Tarrant County Housing Finance Corporation.
9/4/2007 We were presented with five choices to remodel/expand our library. The city council voted to present a $4 million remodel/expansion to the voters (which passed.) I was convinced then, and remain convinced, that 90% of the improvement of our library will come from better technology, better management, and better use of the space we currently have. Under my plan, our future library space could have been more flexible.
2/5/2008 I voted against spending $55,000 of your money on a statue for the Veteran’s Park in Keller. Now my adversaries would like you to believe I’m anti-veteran. My attempt to put this on the May ballot for you to decide? They called it a “fiasco” and an “embarrassment.” I have no doubt that if the Public Arts Board had launched an all-out fund-raiser to purchase this statue, the people of Keller would have proudly contributed.
But they didn’t do that. They took the easy way—they reached into the pocket of the taxpayer. This does not honor veterans, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. When you have time, search the internet for a speech by Congressman David Crockett (yes, that Davy Crockett) entitled ‘Not Yours To Give.’
2/19/2008 I voted against a proposal with the grand label, “Clean Fleet Vehicle Policy.” Despite its name, this policy will do precisely nothing to clean the air, but will definitely add to our bloated bureaucracy, and will probably cost you $200,000 for a completely unnecessary road-widening.
Thank you so very much for reading this entire letter. Even if you don’t vote for me, you are very kind for hearing me out. If you still support me after reading this, please take the time to vote. Also, this letter cost me over $4,000. While that expense is ‘sunken,’ my ability to ever run another campaign depends on you. If you can spare a few bucks, please visit my website at www.kellercitylimits.com, or better yet call me—817/514-0858. I don’t hear from constituents nearly as much as I’d like.